Dig­ger driv­ers learn valu­able skills

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Ihave been a jour­nal­ist for a lit­tle more than a year and have learnt that in­ter­views where you need a high-vis­i­bil­ity vest are of­ten the most in­ter­est­ing.

That was cer­tainly the case when I vis­ited the Waikato Dig­ger School at Swaps Quarry on Tao­taoroa Rd last week.

Wear­ing my two- sizestoo-big gum­boots, I set out from the of­fice, not re­ally know­ing what to ex­pect.

Quarry work­ers watched cu­ri­ously as I pulled into the vis­i­tor car park to wait for my ride up to the school.

It wasn’t long be­fore pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor Gerry Burger turned up and we were nav­i­gat­ing the steep gravel road.

You could tell Gerry had driven it 100 times be­fore as he chat­ted about the school and what it has to of­fer.

He has been work­ing there since it opened five years ago and says it is one of the only cam­puses of its type in the coun­try.

The 14 stu­dents en­rolled are a third of the way through their 30-week Civil Plant Op­er­a­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Of­fered through Tai Pou­tini Polytech­nic in Grey­mouth, it is a NZQAap­proved course that pre­pares stu­dents to en­ter civil con­struc­tion and ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries.

‘‘The end re­sult is they are val­ued, skilled, em­ploy­able civil con­struc­tion work­ers.’’

The course is 80 per cent prac­ti­cal, with stu­dents work­ing on projects such as pre­par­ing house sites, lay­ing drains, build­ing roads and traf­fic con­trol.

With that in mind, it’s time for me to hand over my cam­era and note­book and try it for my­self.

Gerry points me in the di­rec­tion of a small dig­ger; he tells me the small­est ones are the hard­est to op­er­ate.

I’m not too sure how I am go­ing to man­age – I can’t even drive a man­ual car.

I can’t help grin­ning as I take the con­trols and Gerry talks me through the ba­sic safety. He is a good teacher.

Stu­dents look on with amuse­ment as I drive the dig­ger back and forth and pick up a mound of dirt.

He lets me muck around for a bit and then takes me to meet the other tu­tor Kris Fan­nin.

Kris worked at Swaps Quarry for 15 years and has a lot of knowl­edge to pass onto the stu­dents.

I talk some of the boys into hav­ing their photo taken and I know it’s time to head back to the of­fice. I don’t want to leave.

Gerry says they don’t have vis­i­tors of­ten but he would like to show more peo­ple around.

The next in­take course is in July.

For in­for­ma­tion go to tpp.ac.nz or phone Gerry on 027 672 1200.

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Learn­ing the ropes: Chron­i­cle jour­nal­ist Ni­cola Ste­wart takes a dig­ger for a spin. INSET: Some of the boys: Tu­tor Kris Fan­nin, stu­dent Matt Murtagh, pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor Gerry Burger and stu­dent Joe Temo at the Waikato Dig­ger School.

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